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PCAOB Exploring Option of Naming Companies with Deficient Financial Audits

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
May 7, 2024

GettyImages-614840826 Audit

The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) is considering whether to reveal, as part of its inspection reports, the names of companies that received deficient audits of their financial information—a step for which investors have argued, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“That’s an issue that we have definitely heard, and it’s under consideration,” Chair Erica Williams told the Journal in an interview, referring to investor feedback. “There have been previous boards that have focused on that issue, and so we’re looking at the work that they’ve done there.” 

Previous boards have considered the issue before, but not acted on it, said Williams. “Like every issue that comes to us, we take a look at it and take it under consideration. This issue, which is a longstanding one, is one that the staff is still taking into consideration.” 

There are varying interpretations of the PCAOB’s authority under the terms of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which created the regulator. A 2004 memo by the PCAOB said that the law statutorily limits its authority to make public certain information from its inspection process. In 2012, under a different chair, the PCAOB said that such disclosure isn’t an option that is consistent with the law’s restrictions. 

Investors have argued that the law gives the PCAOB discretion to determine what details are appropriate to include in inspections reports. For years, they have called for such disclosure by the PCAOB, partially to learn which specific audits had problems. 

The PCAOB’s investor advisory group last year recommended that it reverse its policy of not identifying the companies whose audits were selected for inspection. “By withholding the names of companies whose audits have been inspected, the PCAOB is willingly withholding from investors knowledge of which specific audits complied with laws, regulations, and professional standards,” the group wrote at the time. 

The Center for Audit Quality supports “purposeful transparency to instill more timeliness and utility” for stakeholders to the PCAOB’s inspection process and findings, said its chief executive, Julie Bell Lindsay. But any new requirements should be proposed only after thoughtful and thorough engagement with stakeholders to understand the value, need and implications of such disclosures.

Identifying companies in inspection reports likely would both harm the businesses and their investors by potentially lowering the stock price, said Tom Quaadman, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, in an interview with the Jouranl. He said that the PCAOB does not have the authority to make the change.

Some investors have criticized the inspection reports, saying they are limited in scope and lack details, the Journal previously reported. The PCAOB has said it is working to make inspections more efficient and transparent.

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